Travellers have never had so many travel accommodation options. From home swaps to AirBnB, couch-surfing to good old-fashioned hotel stays, the ways to stay and play around the world seem nearly endless. And yet, one tried and true accommodation is roaring back with a vengeance, reminding you that hey, we’re still here, and oh yeah, we’re cool. Yes, hostels are back baby!
Not that the old school youth hostel went anywhere of course. Hostel accommodation has been a mainstay for young travellers for decades. Perhaps you were that young backpacker, searching for hostels in Europe way back when with your BFF? Well, time to dust off the backpacks and purchase a few for the kids, because booking family rooms in hostels is a great way to save money, meet other travellers and enjoy some beautiful and well-located rest stops on your travels.
Why Hostels for Families Make for an Excellent Travel Adventure
My husband (then boyfriend) and I started staying in student hostels as travelers many years ago. Hostelling was and still is an affordable and fun way to travel. But back then, it wasn’t easy to book ahead. Sometimes we would share a dorm-style with strangers, while other times, we’d luck out and get our own room. We met other travelers and made new friends. We would see different parts of the cities we visited, and of course, we saved money during our travels. After our kids were born, we realized that we didn’t need to stop travelling this way, and it made for a fun adventure. The hostel community is family-friendly.
1. Easy to Book
The two big hostel booking giants on the block are Hostelworld and Hostelling International. They have great search engines (and Hostelworld has an App) to find exactly what you’re looking for. In a sign of how things have changed in the world of hostelling accommodation, Hostelworld has even produced a feature video starring Mariah Carey to promote its hostel network. See, even divas are believers!
If you like to know where you’ll be laying your head every night, let your fingers do the research before you leave home. The Internet is a powerful tool for researching guest reviews, checking out hostel locations right where you want them, and booking a stay in a few clicks. Many official hostels belong to organized networks, and adhere to standard rules and regulations. Many will require a membership or ‘guest card’. You can purchase the member card before you leave or at check-in.
Independent hostels are colorful, fun, and offer a unique accommodation experience, especially for budget-conscious travelers. For our hostel stays, we’ve used Hostelling International for research and bookings. Their system is secure and well-organized. You can search by dates and locations, and read travelers’ reviews. If you want to see the view from your hostel room, type in the address to Google Street View and take a 360 tour of the neighbourhood. It will give you a feel for the property and its location. If you plan to travel in high-season to popular destinations, booking ahead is a must. The best hostels book up fast.
Some hostels may require a deposit to confirm a reservation, so make sure you’ve planned your trip carefully. Losing a deposit when you’re trying to save money is not the name of this travel game.
2. Private Hostel Rooms for Families
Dorm-style rooms are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea when you’re traveling with children or as a family. It’s not always practical or desirable to share accommodation. The great news is that you don’t have to. Hostels offer a wide variety of accommodation options that will appeal to family travelers and meet their needs.
Many hostels offer private rooms for couples and families, with private washroom facilities. These rooms will be more expensive then staying in shared dormitory-style rooms. But it’s at a cost that’s well below booking a hotel stay. Bedding and towels are included in your reservation, and you’ll have to make the beds yourselves, but that’s really a small price to pay. The Euros saved can pay for an extra night’s stay with that lake or mountain view, or allow for extra gelato.
Many hostels have communal play areas for kids to enjoy, and to meet other children from around the world. It’s amazing what can be learned from each other even if they don’t share the same language!
3. Breakfast is Included
Nothing beats getting up and having breakfast prepared for you on holiday. Like most European hotels, your hostel stay include breakfast. Some hostels may also offer dinner menus on weekend evenings. From our experience, these breakfasts were the best time to eat up for the day, and maybe bring along an extra muffin or fruit for a mid-morning snack.
Breakfasts are served buffet style, with a variety of hot and cold beverages, fruit, muesli, yoghurt, baked treats and cereal. Depending on the size of hostel kitchen, they may also serve hot items like porridge, eggs or local specialities. More often than not, young kids are happy with a bowl of cereal and some fruit, while we’ve often been stuffed for the day ahead.
4. High Quality Stay
We’ve enjoyed great hostel stays in France, Scandinavia, and Switzerland. The quality of the hostelling network in these countries is high, and the locations, most importantly, were really great. Right in the center of the action, no car required.
If you’re worried about trying out a hostel for the first time, remember, nothing’s perfect. There are plenty of negative hotel, Airbnb, hostel and VRBO stories out there. You can avoid a poor experience by researching the hostel before your trip. Read the reviews on blogs and other travel sites, then choose and book with confidence.
Hostels are an excellent, affordable accommodation option for family travellers. You’re signing up for an adventure, meeting other travellers, and saving travel dollars along the way. And the best part is you don’t have to sacrifice cleanliness, comfort, or fun by enjoying a hostel stay.
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Photo Credits: Shutterstock, Hostelworld